sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Kathryn Wales
Losing my daughter at 16 weeks gestation was a time of both personal breakdown and communal buildup. I could not have anticipated how much my friendships would grow in the torn soil of my soul, or how much my marriage could prosper thereafter.
Miscarriage was not talked about much in my social circle until it happened to me, partly because mine came after we had announced the pregnancy publicly and because I was eager to talk in order to process it. Within the span of the following year, 11 of my friends would miscarry, and several of their babies now lie beside mine in a plot tucked inside Notre Dame’s cemetery.
Together—without resources or scripts beyond instinct, desire, and hope—we developed a way of grieving such a unique loss. We laid our tiny children to rest in the earth and marked their spots with stone as if we had seen them grow up and had not just felt it; as if we had heard their voices and could remember their smell; as if their names could conjure entire personalities. We did what people have always done for their dead and were immensely blessed to be able to do so.
Whenever I visit Theodora’s grave, I see those other surnames and think about those dear parents—our true friends who wept with us, prayed with us, made meals for us, and received all this back in their turn. I send photos of the graves to those who live too far away to visit as often as they wish, and ask how they are faring. They know I mean it in a deeper sense, from our place of shared trauma. And even when there is not world enough and time to reconnect with each other, this special kind of care helps us to reconnect with ourselves. We look at the scar that has become part of our identity. Together, we remember those members of our families who wait for us on the other side.
Those particular witnesses are not part of my regular life anymore, save one: my husband. He and I grieved differently in the immediate aftermath and struggled to understand each another’s pain and process. I was desperate to see my own parents, feeling I had to care for them, while he delayed our journey because he could not leave without oiling the wooden wardrobe. Unable to care for our daughter, each of us wanted to care for someone, for something vulnerable.
Then we did what we were advised not to do and conceived again as soon as possible, pushing a necessary period of shared mourning far into the future. It was not until another, much later personal crisis in which I called upon my daughter for help did I realize just how much my husband is part of my very self and I can do nothing, signify nothing, without him. Our children are acts of love made flesh, and every act of unlove dishonors their very existence. That is the meaning of marriage. That is family. Rebuilding in the light of that hard won wisdom is the brightest way of being.
I recently returned to thank her for the goodness that my husband and I enjoy in this new season of life. I saw my friends’ names and wished them the same new intimacy. The heart is certainly fuller for having loved and lost and loved again.